There has been only one reported case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) — the fatal human form of mad cow disease — in Taiwan, which was likely caused by the person eating infected beef overseas, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.
“The single vCJD case involves an individual who lived for some time in the UK and fell ill after returning to Taiwan. According to specialists, he likely contracted vCJD during his stay in the UK and not in Taiwan,” CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said.
Chou said an increase in the number of patients suffering from the classic form of CJD over the past few years had to do with the disease being categorized as a communicable and reportable disease in 2007, and was not related to beef consumption.
The remarks came amid media reports that the surge in the number of CJD patients in Taiwan was connected to US beef imports.
According to CDC statistics, there were 12 cases of classic CJD in Taiwan in 2007, 23 in 2008, 23 in 2009, 24 in 2010 and 17 last year. As of March this year, there has been one reported case.
Classic CJD can be hereditary, occurs randomly in a person or can be contracted during an operation. It is not associated with beef consumption. However, vCJD, the human form of mad cow disease, can be contracted by eating meat infected with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday it was seeking permission from US authorities to visit slaughterhouses there in light of a recently discovered case of mad cow disease in California.
Minister of Health Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said he hopes that a DOH delegation could make the trip as soon as possible so its report could be taken into account in proposed amendments to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), according to health department spokesman Wang Che-chao (王哲超).
Wang said the health department has been organizing such trips once or twice per year as part of efforts to ensure the safety of US beef imports.
The department considers a trip to US slaughterhouses necessary to learn more about meat processing practices there in light of the new case of mad cow disease and the recent controversy over residues of the leanness--enhancing drug ractopamine in US beef, Wang said.
It has not yet been decided whether cattle ranches and feed factories should be included in the trip, he said.